None is Hard to Draw

None is hard to draw

When my father was dying of lung cancer, my mother, Alice, seemed to be in denial. In retrospect, she was in Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t take in and process the fact that he was terminal. I was with them in my father’s hospital room, a few days after the surgery that removed the cancerous lobes of his lung, when the oncologist shared the pathology report. With tact and compassion, the doctor said that his pathology report was a death sentence. I heard her. But for my mother, the doctor’s information  just floated away. There was no way to stick this idea—that soon there would be no more Dave—to something else she already knew so that she could hang onto it. It’s kind of like trying to make a drawing of nothing—no frame of reference makes it hard.

I was another story altogether. A hyperactive, accident-prone, wild child, I had always tired my mother out. Young motherhood for her was a time of scarcity: She ran out of time, of energy, of money, of patience. She held on to this frame of reference until years later when I came to visit, to help my father recover (her view) or die gracefully (my view), when it registered that I had changed. She hugged me tight at the end of a visit. I’ve been taller than her since sixth grade. “Dana, you were such a help. I don’t what we’d do without you!” Then she pulled away, looked up at me, shook her head in disbelief and said, “And you used to be so annoying!” I’ve always been a sucker for sweetness.


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4 Responses to None is Hard to Draw

  1. Peter says:

    thanks for making this nice frame of reference – you are apparently still a wild child, but (I hope) not so accident-prone!

  2. Louise says:

    Oh, Dana! This one made me laugh. And cry. Thank you for sharing this journey. My dad died of Alzheimer’s two years ago, and I’ve yearned for a perspective that retains both the fear and the humor of his last years. You’ve found it here — what a gift!

    • danawalrath says:

      Thank you, Louise, fellow traveler. I’m touched that this spoke to you. Sending compassion for those scary moments with your dad as he passed but also sharing the laughter with you too.

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